Dalmore. Give me more!

Back on the Edinburgh drams after my emergency break-away for the Glenkinchie 10. This one was part of a whisky flight I had in the Ensigne Ewart, I’ll cover the rest in due course but I wanted to start with this one as it intrigues me.

Dalmore. I know it’s had its critics but I promise I’ll be impartial. I’ll be giving my opinion as I always do and I will judge the whisky on it’s flavour alone and not on the opinions of other reviewers and drinkers. Bit of history to start us off anyway.

Dalmore is a highland distillery which was founded in 1839 by a rich gentleman called
Alexander Matheson, who had made his money from being part of the business which took over the East India Company. So when you’ve got that much cash lying around pretty quickly you decide you need to build a distillery, well I know I would.

But as with every rich businessman who has his finger in many a pie, they lose interest, the distillery was leased and then sold to the Mackenzie family in the late 1880’s. They did very well for the next 90 years but eventually sold up to their biggest buyer, Whyte and Mackay who are the current name over the door.

Dalmore have been and are a very successful brand in single malt whisky and have built a fine reputation as a provider of quality scotch around the world. But I can’t help feel their selling themselves short of what they could be. They use of caramel colouring; chill filtering and selling at just 40 percent abv are really limiting it’s impact. Bear with me on this. I may be dragging you into a place in my mind you may never return from.

The legal minimum ABV for whisky to be called whisky is 40%. Any less and you can’t call it whisky. Now 40%ABV sounds quite strong. But it doesn’t come out of the cask at that strength it’s often more, some, mainly independent bottlers sell their whisky at cask strength. Literally a case of open the bung hole and fill the bottles (a tad over-simplified but you get the idea). This really limits the amount of bottles you can produce from any one cask. So how can you make this go further. You can reduce down the proof by adding water but this also obviously increases the volume of whisky you have. More whisky. More bottles. More profit. The simple maths of it is if you buy a bottle at 40% abv, the other 60% is water. Now before you all rush out and decide to buy only whisky that is higher than 40% abv don’t. You’d be missing out on some amazing whiskies Johnnie Walker and Glenfiddich to name but two brands.

Now the other practise used by some distilleries is the use of chill-filtration. This in very simplified terms, chills the whisky down to about 0 degrees celsius and forces it through some fine filters under pressure in order to strip out some of the natural oils and fatty acids within the spirit. Which to me is stripping out flavour. The reason they do this is to stop the whisky turning cloudy when you add ice or water and proof down the whisky at your preference, as it is apparently seen as being a bad thing and aesthetically displeasing to the customer. It’s a sign of inferior quality scotch and it must be clear all the time. Didn’t realise we were trying to make vodka. The best part is if you release the whisky at 46% abv without the chill filtration scotch mist doesn’t tend to form. Of course filtration is used in whisky to get rid of any barrel char or sediment that has formed during the maturation process, this is carried out with simple barrier filtering.

Saw this in a shop a while back. Chill-filtered for purity. I’d rather have some flavour!

The other process that some distilleries use is the addition of colourant into their whisky. E150a caramel colourant to be precise. Again this is down to a perceived quality opinion that a darker whisky is a more flavoursome and quality whisky. This is not always the case. Of course some distilleries use it for uniformity too, so that all batches look exactly the same on the supermarket shelf.

Now I do not stick to the rule of if it is chill-filtered if it says ‘mit farbstoff’ on the label and if its only 40%abv I don’t touch it, because you should never judge a book by its cover, and never judge a whisky by its label!

Before I continue I must remind you, this is totally my opinion and some of these processes are very much a contentious issue within the whisky industry and there are arguments both for and against all these practices, I just happen to be a fan of integrity and intrinsic product quality that’s all. Think I’d better start the review bit now before I say anymore!

My whisky flight at the Ensigne Ewart. Spot the e150a…. I mean, Dalmore 15 . . .

So Dalmore 15! Part of a sherry whisky flight in the Ensigne Ewart on the Royal Mile, with a rather cool folk band playing too, about half 9 at night.

A rich caramel on the nose, with vanilla, soaked raisins, christmas pudding or maybe spotted dick, smell is definitely drawing me in to taste it and see if it’s just as good on the palate

Taste is more of the same, but texturally the spirit isn’t coating my tongue, feels a bit thin, the big classic sherry notes are there but more subdued than they are on the nose, and the finish is almost non-existent.

Can you imagine how amazing this could be if it was bottled at 46% non-chill filtered and showed off its natural colour?

Dram was part of a whisky flight at the Ensigne Ewart, the flight itself was £24 purchased by myself.

All views are my own.

For Drinkers. For Thinkers. For Fun.

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